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Political Influence in Transition Economies: Firm Level Evidence

by Anders Olofsgård (with R. Desai), Working Paper

Arrangements by which influential firms receive economic favors, has been documented in numerous case studies but rarely formalized or analyzed quantitatively. We offer a formal voting model in which political influence is modeled as a contract by which politicians deliver a more preferential business environment to favored firms who, in exchange, protect politicians from the political consequences of high unemployment. From this perspective, cronyism simultaneously lowers a firm’s fixed costs while raising its variable wage costs. Testing several of the implications of the model on firm-level data from 26 transition countries, we find that more influential firms face fewer administrative and regulatory obstacles and carry bloated payrolls, but they also invest and innovate less. These results do not change when using propensity-score matching to adjust for the fact that influence is not randomly assigned.

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